Keep your shoes: Empire Cinemas to display posters outlining 10 'golden rules' for cinema etiquette


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The Independent Culture

Thousands of cinemagoers are driven to distraction each month by the bad behaviour of those around them, as their neighbours talk loudly, eat smelly food and text on their mobile phones during the films. One cinema chain has now drawn up a new “etiquette guide” to ensure its patrons are not left fuming into their popcorn.

Empire Cinemas is to display posters in the foyers of their chains around the country outlining 10 “golden rules” warning patrons against everything from taking off their shoes to over-enthusiastic public displays of affection.

The company was moved to draw up its list after a poll of customers found that 85 per cent were keen for an official cinema code of conduct, and complained of disruptive behaviour.

Of those quizzed, two-thirds admitted they had wanted to confront fellow cinemagoers but had lost their nerve. However, it is not clear whether the auditoriums will be policed more closely, or whether those breaching the code will actually be thrown out.

Kaleem Aftab, film correspondent at The Independent, called for viewers to avoid disruptive behaviour and said cinemas “should be like a church, where the screen is the pulpit”.

This weekend he was forced to tell off a fellow cinemagoer for talking and then texting, “which is annoying in the first place, but worse when they don’t know how to silence the beeps every time they pressed a button”.

While the UK chains have been more reticent, there have been cases of persistent texters being thrown out of cinemas in the US, while in 2004, the French Government backed plans by cinema chains to introduce technology that could jam mobile phone signals. 

Aftab agreed that talking and the use of phones should be banned, as well as smelly foods in noisy wrappers. He would also introduce a ban on people turning up drunk or wearing hats. “Snogging should be allowed though,” he said. “As long as it is in the back row.”

The Etiquette Guide bears a close resemblance to the “Wittertainment Code of Conduct” drawn up in 2010 by Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode during their popular weekly film review show on BBC 5 Live.

The pair’s “10 commandments” for cinemagoers decreed that no food louder than a soft bun should be consumed, and prohibited talking, the use of mobile phones and removal of shoes.

They also requested that no hobbies be involved, from knitting to drug dealing, as well as arriving late or bringing young children to 12A rated films instead of hiring a babysitter. Empire Cinemas said the list had not influenced their decision to draw up their own.

The biggest complaint made by their customers was talking during the film, with over half calling it the most annoying habit of their fellow filmgoers. A quarter picked loud eating and drinking, with 15 per cent criticising public displays of affection.

In a bid to curtail antisocial activities, the Prince Charles Cinema in London introduced so-called “cinema ninjas” to their auditoriums in September, where staff dress up in dark clothing to police bad behaviour.

While the UK has seen arguments, and even blows traded over antisocial behaviour, it has not reached the level of the Latvia, where one cinemagoer shot his neighbour dead for complaining about the volume he was eating his popcorn.

In 2008, an American shot a fellow cinemagoer after complaining about his talking during The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The shooter then returned to watching the movie.